Countdown to Dubai 2020: change has already begun

Previous expos have spawned the TV and the mobile. What could the next one yield?

Renders - Courtsey: Dubai Expo 2020.
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With exactly two years to go before Dubai welcomes the first of millions of visitors from around the world, Expo 2020 is already changing the landscape, both literally and metaphorically. Impressive, sustainable buildings and infrastructure that will serve the city for generations are already rising from the desert on the bustling site 12 kilometres south of Dubai Marina. On the most recent Google Earth satellite photograph of Dubai, taken in July, the central Al Wasl plaza is clearly visible from 60km above. The three leaf-shaped zones dedicated to the themes of the expo – opportunity, mobility and sustainability – can also be seen.

This is the UAE writ large. But even as the extraordinary designs that helped the city win the right to stage Expo 2020 take solid form, so the inspirational concepts that distinguished the entry are also taking shape. Since the 1851 Great Exhibition in London, which paid homage to the industrial revolution, expos have always held forth the promise of a brighter future, made possible by human collaboration. The telegraph, typewriter, X-ray machine, television, mobile phone – all these world-changing inventions made their debuts at expos.

Expos, staged once every five years, are festivals of human ingenuity. But Dubai 2020, the first in the Middle East, promises to be something more besides. Dubai’s gift to the world, encapsulated in the overarching theme “Connecting minds, creating the future”, is the message that as we face unparalleled challenges, international co-operation and ingenuity have never been more important. Dubai 2020 will leave a legacy of development and economic benefit. But it is in the minds and lives of the estimated 25 million visitors expected over the six months of the expo that it will leave its most enduring mark. Sustainability, mobility and opportunity are the keys to the future. Those who head down to Burj Park in Downtown Dubai at 5pm on Saturday for the countdown party will be offered a tantalising preview of that future, and a glimpse of the power of the message that, come 2020, will ripple out across the world.